Now that our students are heading back to school it’s time for us over-21ers to do the same and get back to some basic wine education with this issue’s Q & A.
How do you taste wine if you’ve never done it before?
An acquaintance told me about attending a party where wine was served and she was unsure as how to start as she had never had wine before. My suggestion: select any bottle, white or red, and pour a very small splash into your glass to taste. This way you can make a decision before you make a commitment of a full glass. If another guest asks why you are sampling explain that you would prefer not to be wasteful or inebriated. If you are enjoying the process, have a few more splashes and come back to the wine that appealed to you most. Don’t worry about describing it like an aficionado, you will look like one just by selecting your wine this way!
When presented with red, white, sparkling and sweet, which wine should you taste first and why?
Depending on the food you may be eating, the rule of thumb is the lightest wine is served first, say with an appetizer. The heavier wines, like a red, would come with your meat or richer course, and sweet wine with dessert. Sparkling wine is normally consumed as a toast to begin a celebration, however, the folks in Champagne believe it can be served throughout a meal and I’m not one to argue!
How do you expand your palate away from drinking the same wine all of the time?
A lot of us get caught in a rut, whether it be ordering the same meal at a favorite restaurant or having the same wine, say a Cabernet Sauvignon, with that meal. First of all, try to think about the aromas and flavors of your wine (and food) instead of mere enjoyable consumption. Whatever you like about one wine can be found in others, for instance the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is very common in French Bordeaux wines. As French Bordeaux is commonly made with Merlot too, maybe try that. If you like the spiciness of a Zinfandel try an Australian Shiraz or domestic Syrah. If you like the lighter style in a Pinot Noir maybe try a lighter Rhone wine like Grenache. If you like White Zinfandel try moving over to an American or French Rosé. If you like unoaked Chardonnay try Sauvignon Blanc. Again, once you start thinking about the wine, the more you should want to taste.
Why should you join a wine club?
The common answer as to why you should join a wine club is to get your wine at a discounted price and be invited to winery parties. Another reason is to support your favorite wineries and wine bars so that your business helps support, and continue, theirs.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years.  You can email [email protected] to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column.  Visit her website at [email protected]

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